Living With Cats: Saying Goodbye
This is a sad day and I suspect it be a bit that way for a while. I have been sitting thinking about living with cats and the pain of having to let them go, because yesterday my dignified old gentleman Emmanuel came to the end of his time in a body that wasn’t serving him very well anymore.
It took me a long time to live with a pet after my dogs died… years in fact. I didn’t want to have those overwhelming feelings of loss ever again. If you have read Living with Cats, you will know that Emmanuel, then called Squeaks, chose me by being the only cat willing to engage with me when I went to Greenacres to finally find a new furry friend.
From the very beginning, this huge chunk of black fur settled himself confidently into my home and filled up my heart with the kind of love I have never been very good at sharing with humans.
On of my earliest memories of him was trying to get him to the vet for a check-up. After several attempts at wrestling him into the cat basket I remembered the superpower that all cats possess. He did of course grow legs and put on several stones and become far too large to pass through the door of a cat basket, no matter how big the basket happened to be. Typical cat.
What was not typical in my experience was that he didn’t hiss or scratch or bite or howl. He seemed to understand that this was not something we should fall out over. When I stepped back and let him go, he just flopped at my feet and lay on his side completely unperturbed. The look he gave me said: “I assume we are clear on this matter now.”
I phoned the vet and cancelled the appointment and went quietly to work on my technique for future events where it might be a bit more necessary.
Emmanuel didn’t appear to forgive me for spending four months in hospital last year and, although I was quite jealous at times, I was also so grateful to Catherine, my neighbour and friend, that he had come to clearly love her and quite definitely see hers as his other home.
Mine mostly became the place where he ate (and that old boy could eat for Wales) and charmingly, to use the litter tray, often when I had visitors. It seemed that I was living with a teenager who would come home, demand food, leave noxious smells and then go off to be with others he preferred.
Never what you would call a cuddly cat, he still came and lay beside me companionably when he felt like it, and… oh bliss…would deign to sleep beside my pillow or bestow rare and heartwarming moments of ecstatic loving purring, padding, drooling cat love until he remembered that I had left him for months and wasn’t yet forgiven.
There are so many things I could say to thank you, Emmanuel, but not least for the way you settled into my heart with such dignity and made me feel I would burst with love. At a dark time, you made coming home less lonely, and loving less complicated. You not only ate your way through astonishing amounts of food – though never to the bottom of the bowl, don’t you know? – but into a home that really really needed your quiet patient grace.
You are the first of my furry friends I could not be with at the end but keeping you would have been cruel, and the one awful truth of living with cats is it is so often that we humans must show our love finally by letting you go.
Just a note to say: anyone who has lived with a black cat probably knows how difficult it is to get a good photograph. They seem to blend very well into whatever background they are against and, to be honest, Emmanuel seemed mostly to be lying down ‘resting’. I have put up a few that I think capture him.